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Towns leads Timberwolves past injury-depleted Clippers

em>By Tim Liotta, Associated Press /em> LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Karl-Anthony Towns scored 37 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 45 seconds left, and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Clippers 104-101 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Andrew Wiggins added 27 points, including two free throws with five seconds left that helped Minnesota snap its six-game road losing streak. DeAndre Jordan had 29 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Clippers, but was unable to make enough free throws down the stretch to keep his team in front. Austin Rivers added 20 points for Los Angeles. The Clippers played without star point guard Chris Paul, who tore a ligament in his left thumb Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) during a 120-98 victory over Oklahoma City. Paul underwent surgery Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) and is expected to be out six to eight weeks. Los Angeles is still missing star forward Blake Griffin due to injury as well. He is expected back in a week or two. Minnesota pulled to 97-96 when Towns sank a three-pointer with 2:48 to play. At the other end, the Timberwolves hacked Jordan repeatedly, looking to take advantage of his poor foul shooting. The big man went 4-of-8 from the line over five possessions, setting the stage for Towns to drain a jumper from the left elbow to tie the score at 98 with 2:28 to go. After Jordan made 1-of-2 again, Wiggins missed from the outside and Jamal Crawford made a 14-footer with 1:28 left for a 101-98 Los Angeles lead. Towns answered with a short jumper to pull Minnesota to 101-100 with 1:12 remaining. Crawford missed a short jumper before Towns hit an 18-footer with 45 seconds left to put the Timberwolves up 102-101. After J.J. Redick missed a three-pointer from the right side, Wiggins grabbed an offensive rebound at the other end and made two free throws to put Minnesota up by three. Redick and Crawford missed long three-point attempts in the final four seconds. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em>This was the first road victory for the Timberwolves since they beat Atlanta on Dec. 21 (Dec. 22, PHL time) em> strong>Clippers: /strong> /em> Los Angeles shot 48 percent from the field but went 4-of-22 on three-pointers. The 7-0 mark tied the franchise record to start a calendar year. The team was also 7-0 to begin 1974 when the franchise was located in Buffalo. After this game, the Clippers play 10 of their next 11 on the road. They open a five-game trip in Denver on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), return home to play Golden State on Feb. 2 (Feb. 3, PHL time) and then set out on another five-game swing. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em> Home against Denver on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). em> strong>Clippers: /strong> /em> At the Nuggets on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Leonard scores 34, helps rally Spurs past Timberwolves

em>By Raul Dominguez, Associated Press /em> SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a strong start by the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 122-114 victory Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Leonard's fourth straight 30-point game helped him become the first San Antonio player to score 950 points in the season's first half since Tim Duncan in 2003. Coming off a career-high 38 on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) against Phoenix in Mexico City, Leonard was 12-for-17 from the field. LaMarcus Aldridge added 29 points on 12-for-20 shooting, spoiling Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau's 59th birthday. San Antonio had difficulty with Minnesota's explosive starting lineup. Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio added 21 points and 14 assists. Zach LaVine scored 18, Gorgui Dieng had 17 and Andrew Wiggins 10. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Towns, Rubio lead Wolves to third straight win, top OKC

em>By Jon Krawczynski, Associated Press /em> MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Karl-Anthony Towns had 29 points and 17 rebounds and Ricky Rubio added 14 points and 14 assists to help the Minnesota Timberwolves to their third straight victory, 96-86 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points and Brandon Rush had 11 for the Timberwolves, who have won three in a row for the first time all season. The improving Timberwolves defense held the Thunder to 38.8 percent shooting and scored 33 points off of 19 Oklahoma City turnovers. Russell Westbrook had 21 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds for his 19th triple-double of the season. But he also had 10 turnovers in Oklahoma City's first loss in four games. Enes Kanter had 21 points and eight rebounds for the Thunder. Zach LaVine missed his second straight game for Minnesota with a hip pointer, but the Wolves still managed to shoot 45 percent. Towns made 11-of-17 shots, including a beauty of a scoop with five minutes to go that gave Minnesota a 13-point lead. The Wolves defense had been startlingly poor in its first season under defensive guru Tom Thibodeau, but has shown marked improvement of late. Minnesota entered the game sixth in the league in defensive rating over the previous 15 games, then put the clamps on Oklahoma City to improve to 8-8 after a 6-18 start. Westbrook has been a one-man wrecking crew this season, entering the game as the second player in league history to average at least 30 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds per game through the first 40 games. His 19 triple-doubles are the most in a season since Wilt Chamberlain had 31 in 1967-68. But he made just 7-of-23 shots against the Wolves and was 1-for-10 from three-point range. Rubio tied a franchise record with 17 assists in a win over the Rockets on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL tie), had another 15 assists in the win over Dallas on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) and was at his best in the third quarter on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). He had six points and seven assists in the quarter, scoring or assisting on nine of Minnesota's 12 field goals in the period. He also checked Westbrook for the entire period, helping to hold him to 0-for-7 shooting with five turnovers in 12 minutes. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Thunder: /strong> /em>Westbrook surpassed his triple-double total for all of last season. Victor Oladipo scored 19 points. Kanter hit a three-pointer at the end of the first quarter, just his fifth of the season. em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em> Rubio also had four steals and five turnovers. Rubio's 46 assists over the last three games is tied with Westbrook for the most dimes in a three-game span this season. Towns had his 10th straight double-double and 30th of the season. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Thunder: /strong> /em> Oklahoma City heads to Sacramento for a game Sunday (Monday, PHL time), the second of its six-game road trip. em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em>Minnesota starts a three-game road trip in Dallas on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Cavaliers' James and Warriors' Curry lead in second fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting 2017

em>NBA press release /em> NEW YORK -- The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry lead their respective conferences in the second fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting 2017 presented by Verizon. Fan voting continues to surge as more than 21 million votes have been cast, a 142% increase from the same time period last year.  Fans will account for 50 percent of the vote to determine the 10 starters for the 66th NBA All-Star Game, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 19 (Feb. 20, PHL time) at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. All current NBA players and a panel of basketball media will account for 25 percent each, with each participant completing one full ballot featuring two guards and three frontcourt players from both conferences. Voting for fans, players and media will conclude on Monday, Jan. 16 at 11:59 p.m. ET (Tuesday, Jan. 17, 12:59pm, PHL time), and starters will be announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 19 (Jan. 20, PHL time) during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader.com. The Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Star reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, will be announced the following week on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 26 (Jan. 27, PHL time).   In the second fan returns, James totaled 1,066,147 votes to maintain the top spot among all players and increase his lead in the East frontcourt over the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (963,110).  Cleveland’s Kevin Love (473,328) edges the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (457,300) by 16,028 votes for third place in the East frontcourt.  Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving (971,362) and the Chicago Bulls’ Dwyane Wade (514,866) continue to set the pace among East guards, while the Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan (453,538) remains in third place. In the West, Curry (990,390) has pulled ahead of teammate Kevin Durant (987,479) as the conference’s leading vote-getter.  Curry and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden (961,685) remain the front-runners at guard, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (899,024).  Durant, Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia (823,376) and the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (630,766) continue to lead the frontcourt, with the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (567,201) in fourth place. See below for the second fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting 2017 presented by Verizon. strong>NBA ALL-STAR VOTING 2017 PRESENTED BY VERIZON /strong> em> strong>Eastern Conference Frontcourt /strong> /em> 1. LeBron James (CLE) 1,066,147 br /> 2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 963,110 br /> 3. Kevin Love (CLE) 473,328 br /> 4. Joel Embiid (PHI) 457,300 br /> 5. Jimmy Butler (CHI) 400,448 br /> 6. Carmelo Anthony (NY) 327,716 br /> 7. Kristaps Porzingis (NY) 324,106 br /> 8. Paul George (IND) 249,484 br /> 9. Jabari Parker (MIL) 120,022 br /> 10. Tristan Thompson (CLE) 114,759 em> strong>Eastern Conference Guards /strong> /em> 1. Kyrie Irving (CLE) 971,362 br /> 2. Dwyane Wade (CHI) 514,866 br /> 3. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 453,538 br /> 4. Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 401,671 br /> 5. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 256,668 br /> 6. Derrick Rose (NY) 223,804 br /> 7. John Wall (WAS) 173,148 br /> 8. Jeremy Lin (BKN) 109,088 br /> 9. Kemba Walker (CHA) 105,637 br /> 10. Avery Bradley (BOS) 64,157 em> strong>Western Conference Frontcourt /strong> /em> 1. Kevin Durant (GS) 987,479 br /> 2. Zaza Pachulia (GS) 823,376 br /> 3. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 630,766 br /> 4. Anthony Davis (NO) 567,201 br /> 5. Draymond Green (GS) 464,319 br /> 6. DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 379,225 br /> 7. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 223,979 br /> 8. LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) 192,784 br /> 9. Blake Griffin (LAC) 172,393 br /> 10. Marc Gasol (MEM) 172,146 em> strong>Western Conference Guards /strong> /em> 1. Stephen Curry (GS) 990,390 br /> 2. James Harden (HOU) 961,685 br /> 3. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 899,024 br /> 4. Klay Thompson (GS) 555,430 br /> 5. Chris Paul (LAC) 379,076 br /> 6. Damian Lillard (POR) 208,171 br /> 7. Eric Gordon (HOU) 191,407 br /> 8. Andre Iguodala (GS) 130,224 br /> 9. Manu Ginobili (SA) 122,333 br /> 10. Zach LaVine (MIN) 94,867 After all votes are tallied, players will be ranked in each conference by position (guard and frontcourt) within each of the three voting groups – fan votes, player votes and media votes.  Each player’s score will be calculated by averaging his weighted rank from the fan votes, the player votes and the media votes.  The five players (two guards and three frontcourt players) with the best score in each conference will be named NBA All-Star Game starters.  Fan voting will serve as the tiebreaker for players in a position group with the same score. * * * strong>How Fans Can Vote /strong> NBA fans may submit one full ballot each day through NBA.com, the NBA App (available on Android and iOS), Twitter, Facebook and Google Search, as well as via Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblogs in China. All current NBA players are available for selection.  em> strong>NBA.com voting page at NBA.com/vote: /strong> /em> Fill out one full ballot per day (once every 24 hours) on NBA.com/vote from a desktop or mobile browser. Fans can select up to two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference when choosing starters.   br />   br /> em> strong>NBA App:  /strong> /em>Access the ballot and vote through the app, which is available on Android and iOS. Fans can fill out one full ballot per day and select up to two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference when choosing starters. br />   br /> em> strong>Twitter:  /strong> /em>Tweet, retweet or reply with an NBA player’s first and last name or Twitter handle, along with the hashtag 'NBAVOTE.  Each tweet may include only one player’s name or handle. Fans may vote for 10 unique players each day throughout the NBA All-Star voting period.  br />   br /> em> strong>Facebook:  /strong> /em>Post the player’s first and last name along with the hashtag 'NBAVOTE on your personal Facebook account, or comment on another’s Facebook post.   Each post may include only one player’s name. Fans may post votes for 10 unique players per day throughout the voting period. br />   br /> em> strong>Google Search: /strong> /em> Search “NBA Vote All-Star” or “NBA Vote Team Name” (ex: NBA Vote Celtics) and use respective voting cards to select teams and then players.  Fans may submit votes for 10 unique players per day throughout the voting period.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2017

Towns, Rubio lead Timberwolves over Mavericks

em>By Patrick Donnelly, Associated Press /em> MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 34 points and 11 rebounds, Ricky Rubio added 13 points and a season-high 15 assists, and the Minnesota Timberwolves snapped a four-game losing streak with a 101-92 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Harrison Barnes scored 30 points for the Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki had 26, including five three-pointers. Towns hit 15-of-19 shots from the floor as the Timberwolves shot 56.3 percent. Rubio scored nine points in the fourth quarter, including consecutive baskets during an 8-0 run that gave the Timberwolves some breathing room after Dallas had whittled a 21-point lead to 81-77. He hit three free throws with 2:08 to play to give Minnesota a 97-83 lead. Towns got the Wolves off to a fast start, scoring Minnesota's first seven points and 16 total in the first seven minutes. He finished with 20 in the period as the Timberwolves took a 33-14 lead after one quarter. The Wolves shot 65 percent from the field in the quarter. They stretched the lead to 44-23 before the Mavericks responded with a 15-2 run to get back in the game. Nowitzki hit three-pointers on three straight possessions to close the first half as Dallas pulled to 54-46 at the break. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em>Dallas had won seven straight against the Timberwolves, including four in a row at Target Center. This was the first meeting of the season between the Midwest Division foes. Nowitzki topped his previous season-high of four three-pointers. The last time he had six in a game was April 1, 2014. Andrew Bogut missed the fourth quarter with an injured hamstring. em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em>Towns scored 20 points in a quarter for the second time in his career. He had 22 in the first quarter against New York on Nov. 30 (Dec. 1, PHL time). Zach LaVine left early in the fourth with a bruised left hip and did not return. LaVine grabbed Devin Harris to get called for a foul, then limped off the court and into the Minnesota locker room. He was replaced by Tyus Jones. Shabazz Muhammad scored in double figures off the bench for the sixth time in his last eight games, finishing with 11 points in 20-plus minutes. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em>Dallas plays the Phoenix Suns on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) in Mexico City. em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em>Minnesota hosts the Houston Rockets on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Jazz rally from 11 down to defeat Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) George Hill scored 19 points in his return from a concussion and the Rudy Gobert tipped in a rebound with 27.5 seconds to play to lift the Utah Jazz to a 94-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night. Derrick Favors scored seven of his 15 points in the fourth and Gobert finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks as the Jazz rallied from 11 points down to start the final quarter. They still trailed by nine with three minutes to play, but closed on an 11-0 run. Zach LaVine had 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists and Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Timberwolves. They have lost four straight games. The Wolves went the final 4:41 without a field goal. With Utah down 93-83 with 3:05 to play, Favors scored seven straight points for the Jazz, including a corner 3-pointer to cut it to 92-90 with 1:29 to play. Andrew Wiggins missed a jumper on the other end and went 0 for 4 in the final 12 minutes and Hill made a pair at the line to tie the game with 52 seconds to play. After Gorgui Dieng missed a jumper, Gobert tipped in a miss, then forced a wild hook shot from Towns that caromed off the rim. The Wolves had one more chance, but LaVine missed a jumper at the buzzer. The Wolves dropped to 5-15 in ''crunch time'' games - defined by the scoring margin being five points or less in the final five minutes. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Cavs, Warriors stars lead first fan returns of ASG voting

em>NBA press release /em> NEW YORK -- LeBron James and Kyrie Irving of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are the top two vote-getters overall, while Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors lead all Western Conference players in the first fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting 2017 presented by Verizon. The first week of fan voting for the 66th NBA All-Star Game, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 19 (Feb. 20, PHL time) at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, produced close races in both conferences and generated 138% more votes cast (11,174,153) than during the same time period last year (4,693,433). James, a 12-time All-Star, received 595,288 votes to earn the top spot among all players. Joining James at the top of the Eastern Conference frontcourt are the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (500,663) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (250,347), with rookie Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers (221,984) next on the list. Irving (543,030) and 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade of the Chicago Bulls (278,052) lead the East guards, followed by the Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan (253,340). Durant, who owns the highest scoring average in All-Star Game history (25.6 ppg), paces all West players with 541,209 votes. He is followed in the West frontcourt by Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia (439,675) and the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (341,240), who edges the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (318,144).  Curry (523,597) narrowly tops a tight race among West guards, with the Houston Rockets’ James Harden (519,446) edging two-time reigning All-Star Game MVP Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder (501,652) for second place. For the first time ever, NBA players and basketball media will join fans in selecting the starters for the NBA All-Star Game. Fans will account for 50 percent of the vote, while all current players and a media panel will account for 25 percent each.  Player and media voting will begin next week, with each participant completing one full ballot featuring two guards and three frontcourt players from both conferences.  After all votes are tallied, players will be ranked in each conference by position (guard and frontcourt) within each of the three voting groups – fan votes, player votes and media votes.  Each player’s score will be calculated by averaging his weighted rank from the fan votes, the player votes and the media votes.  The five players (two guards and three frontcourt players) with the best score in each conference will be named NBA All-Star Game starters. Fan voting will serve as the tiebreaker for players in a position group with the same score. See below for the first fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting 2017 presented by Verizon. strong>NBA ALL-STAR VOTING 2017 PRESENTED BY VERIZON /strong> em> strong>Eastern Conference Frontcourt /strong> /em> 1. LeBron James (CLE) 595,288 br /> 2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 500,663 br /> 3. Kevin Love (CLE) 250,347 br /> 4. Joel Embiid (PHI) 221,984 br /> 5. Carmelo Anthony (NY) 189,817 br /> 6. Jimmy Butler (CHI) 189,066 br /> 7. Kristaps Porzingis (NY) 184,166 br /> 8. Paul George (IND) 138,332 br /> 9. Hassan Whiteside (MIA) 72,628 br /> 10. Jabari Parker (MIL) 64,141 em> strong>Eastern Conference Guards /strong> /em> 1. Kyrie Irving (CLE) 543,030 br /> 2. Dwyane Wade (CHI) 278,052 br /> 3. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 253,340 br /> 4. Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 193,297 br /> 5. Derrick Rose (NY) 129,924 br /> 6. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 128,940 br /> 7. John Wall (WAS) 87,360 br /> 8. Jeremy Lin (BKN) 59,562 br /> 9. Kemba Walker (CHA) 52,122 br /> 10. Avery Bradley (BOS) 32,822 em> strong>Western Conference Frontcourt /strong> /em> 1. Kevin Durant (GS) 541,209 br /> 2. Zaza Pachulia (GS) 439,675 br /> 3. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 341,240 br /> 4. Anthony Davis (NO) 318,144 br /> 5. Draymond Green (GS) 236,315 br /> 6. DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 202,317 br /> 7. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 125,278 br /> 8. LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) 101,724 br /> 9. Blake Griffin (LAC) 100,524 br /> 10. Marc Gasol (MEM) 97,370 em> strong>Western Conference Guards /strong> /em> 1. Stephen Curry (GS) 523,597 br /> 2. James Harden (HOU) 519,446 br /> 3. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 501,652 br /> 4. Klay Thompson (GS) 293,054 br /> 5. Chris Paul (LAC) 173,830 br /> 6. Damian Lillard (POR) 117,857 br /> 7. Eric Gordon (HOU) 76,609 br /> 8. Manu Ginobili (SA) 65,832 br /> 9. Andre Iguodala (GS) 64,247 br /> 10. Zach LaVine (MIN) 53,642 * * * strong>How Fans Can Vote /strong> NBA fans may submit one full ballot each day through NBA.com, the NBA App (available on Android and iOS), Twitter, Facebook and Google Search, as well as via Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblogs in China. All current NBA players are available for selection.  em> strong>NBA.com voting page at NBA.com/vote: /strong> /em> Fill out one full ballot per day (once every 24 hours) on NBA.com/vote from a desktop or mobile browser. Fans can select up to two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference when choosing starters.   br />   br /> em> strong>NBA App: /strong> /em>Access the ballot and vote through the app, which is available on Android and iOS. Fans can fill out one full ballot per day and select up to two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference when choosing starters. br />   br /> em> strong>Twitter: /strong> /em>Tweet, retweet or reply with an NBA player’s first and last name or Twitter handle, along with the hashtag 'NBAVOTE.  Each tweet may include only one player’s name or handle. Fans may vote for 10 unique players each day throughout the NBA All-Star voting period.  br />   br /> em> strong>Facebook: /strong> /em>Post the player’s first and last name along with the hashtag 'NBAVOTE on your personal Facebook account, or comment on another’s Facebook post.   Each post may include only one player’s name. Fans may post votes for 10 unique players per day throughout the voting period. br />   br /> em> strong>Google Search: /strong> /em> Search “NBA Vote All-Star” or “NBA Vote Team Name” (ex: NBA Vote Celtics) and use respective voting cards to select teams and then players.  Fans may submit votes for 10 unique players per day throughout the voting period. The next fan voting update will be shared on Thursday, Jan. 12 (Jan. 13, PHL time).  Voting for fans, players and media will conclude on Monday, Jan. 16 at 11:59 p.m. ET (Jan. 17, 12:59 a.m., PHL time). Starters will be announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 19 (Jan. 20, PHL time) during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader.com, featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith. The special will air prior to TNT’s doubleheader showcasing the Washington Wizards at the New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the LA Clippers. The Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Star reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, will be announced the following week on Thursday, Jan. 26 (Jan. 27, PHL time).  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

McCollum scores 43 as Blazers top Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- C.J. McCollum scored a career-high 43 points and the Portland Trail Blazers overcame a 14-point first-half deficit in a 95-89 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Mason Plumlee had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Evan Turner added 11 points for the Blazers. They were without star point guard Damian Lillard for the fourth straight game. McCollum made 16-of-25 shots, including a 30-foot three-pointer with just over 2:30 to play to put the game out of reach. Andrew Wiggins scored 24 points for the Timberwolves. But Karl-Anthony Towns had just 11 points on 3-for-15 shooting and missed all six of his three-pointers. Zach LaVine also was quiet with 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Portland had lost seven of its last eight and was floundering with its star on the bench with ankle problems. Lillard was listed as doubtful for the game with that sprained left ankle. He worked out hard before the game and showed no noticeable limp, but the Blazers started McCollum at point guard again with two days off before their next scheduled game. McCollum, who was averaging 26 points per game with Lillard out, scored 13 points in a ragged first quarter and put up 16 in a 32-15 third quarter that helped the Blazers turn a 14-point deficit into a five-point lead going into the fourth. The Wolves came back to tie it with 7:23 to play, but Shabazz Napier hit a big triple, Turner hit a soft jumper and Allen Crabbe knocked down another three to put the Blazers in front for good. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Trail Blazers: /strong> /em> Crabbe had 10 points and a career-high eight rebounds. McCollum topped 30 for the seventh time this season. His previous career high was 37. Napier scored three points, the only bench player besides Turner to score. em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em>PG Ricky Rubio had a rough night, going 0-for-5 from the field and getting torched by McCollum on defense. He did not play in the fourth quarter. Minnesota entered the game 10th in the NBA in free throw shooting, but missed six of them on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Towns did have 13 rebounds and six assists, all in the first quarter. strong>MISSING MOTIEJUNAS /strong> The Timberwolves had a workout scheduled with free agent forward Donatas Motiejunas as they considered adding him to help them bolster a bench that has struggled mightily this season. After working out with New Orleans, Motiejunas took a flight to Minneapolis on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). But by the time he got off the plane, he had an offer from the Pelicans on the table and canceled his workout with the Timberwolves. 'We never got a chance to sit down with him,' coach Tom Thibodeau said. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Trail Blazers: /strong> /em> Portland travels to Golden State on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at which time Lillard could be ready to return to the lineup. em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em>Minnesota hits the road to start a two-game trip in Philadelphia on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) against Joel Embiid and the 76ers. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2017

Raptors simply being outpaced by Bucks in conference finals

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com The Toronto Raptors are being outplayed. And through two games of the the Eastern Conference finals, the Milwaukee Bucks clearly are winning the battle of pace. With each team averaging 102 possessions per game, they've stretched a Raptors roster that averaged between 95 and 96 possessions per game in each of the first two rounds. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The first two games of the conference finals have been the two fastest-paced games of Toronto's postseason. They're now 5-0 when they've had 94 or fewer possessions, and 3-6 when they've had 95 or more. On the defensive end of the floor, they've allowed just 96.3 points per 100 possessions in the five slower-paced games and 105.6 in the nine others. The context in those numbers, of course, is that three of the five slow-paced games were against the Orlando Magic's 22nd-ranked offense, while seven of the other nine have been against two top-10 offenses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The Bucks rank second offensively in the playoffs, having scored the same number of points per 100 possessions (113.5) as they did in the regular season, when they ranked just ahead of the Raptors in offensive efficiency. Toronto was actually the most efficient regular-season team in transition, averaging 1.19 points on those possessions, according to Synergy play-type tracking. Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam scored 1.31 and 1.26 points per possession in transition, respectively. Those were the fourth- and seventh-best marks among 101 players who averaged at least two transition possessions per game in the regular season. In this series, the Raptors don't want to play slow and deliberate. Against the league's No. 1 defense, they have to seek out scoring opportunities, and walking the ball up the floor in order to minimize possessions would waste precious seconds off the shot clock. Not to mention allow the Bucks to set up their defense, and put additional pressure on every action and every pass in the half-court. Kyle Lowry has looked to push the ball up the floor against Milwaukee, off of both misses and makes. But the Bucks have simply been more prolific and efficient in transition. According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Raptors have outscored the Bucks by 10 points on field goals in the last 18 seconds of the shot clock, but Milwaukee has outscored Toronto, 49-26, on field goals in the first six seconds of the shot clock. The Raptors' issues have been with both the volume and accuracy of their shots early in the clock. In Game 1, they took 20 shots in the first six seconds, but shot just 5-for-20, in part because 12 of the 20 shots came from three-point range. They got early offense, but not early offense at the rim. In Game 2, the Raptors took just eight of their 87 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock, while the Bucks attempted twice as many. The two ends of the floor are linked, of course. A defensive stop is more likely to lead to a transition opportunity, and a successful offensive possession is more likely to allow a team to get set defensively. And pace isn't just about shots early in the clock. It's also about the quickness with which actions are run in a half-court offense. "A lot of people kinda tend to think [playing with pace] means playing super fast, up the floor and shooting quickly," Nick Nurse said during the Philadelphia series. "We talked about our pace in the halfcourt. I think the games where the shots were better and going in ... our pace in the halfcourt was crisper. It was more speed of cuts, which translated to a little better rhythm, which translated to a little better shots." Both of these teams are defending similarly, putting an emphasis on protecting the basket, which means that paint attacks are met with multiple defenders. The result is ball movement and defensive rotations. And in regard to ball and player movement, the Milwaukee offense has played with more pace. Through the first two games, the Bucks have averaged 348 passes and 11.6 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession. Toronto, meanwhile, has averaged 322 and 11.1. Sure, the Raptors have scored more points from the field in the last 18 seconds of the shot clock, but they haven't been nearly sharp enough to make up for the differential in transition. The Raptors don't want to turn the conference finals into a track meet. But if they're going to come back in this series, it seems they'll have to play with more pace offensively, while preventing the Bucks from doing the same. It's a tough needle to thread. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Bucks making case as favorites to win title

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- In the wake of a wire-to-wire, 125-103 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, a question for the group: Shouldn't the Milwaukee Bucks be the favorites to win this thing? No, not the conference finals. At this point, they're obviously the heavy favorite to win the East. Prior to this year, 72 teams had a 2-0 lead in the conference finals, and 67 of them went on to win. But why aren't the Bucks the favorites to win the NBA championship? Is there a case to be made against 1) what was the best team in the regular season and 2) what has been an even better team in the playoffs? [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Maybe this is a we'll-believe-it-when-we-see-it league. How can you pick a team to win a championship when its best player had never won a playoff series prior to this year? Until they lost in five, it was easier to imagine the Celtics, with their talent and with their recent history of playoff success (back-to-back trips to the conference finals), being the team to represent the East in The Finals in the first year A.L. (after LeBron). And then the Bucks outscored the Celtics by a total of 65 points over the last four games of the conference semis. It's similarly difficult to pick against the Golden State Warriors until they actually lose. The two-time defending champs have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Presumably, they'll have Kevin Durant back for The Finals should they finish off the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals. And even without Durant, the Warriors boast the same 2-0 conference finals lead the Bucks currently possess. But the Warriors haven't been as sharp as they were in each of the previous two postseasons. Five of their 10 playoff wins have been within five points in the last five minutes. Last year, only four of their 16 wins were within five in the last five. In 2017, it was four of 16 as well. With the postseason's 10th-ranked defense, Golden State has outscored its opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions over its 14 games. The Bucks have outscored their opponents by more than double that: 15.1 per 100. That feels like the mark of an eventual champion. Through 10 playoff wins last year, the Warriors had outscored their opponents by 9.6 points per 100 possessions. Through 10 playoff wins in 2015, they had outscored their opponents by just 7.7 points per 100. It was only in 2017, when they won their first 15 playoff games in Durant's first season in Golden State, that the Warriors were as dominant as the Bucks have been thus far. At 10-0 two years ago, Golden State had outscored its playoff opponents by 16.5 points per 100 possessions. At that point, the Warriors had the No. 2 offense and the No. 1 defense in the postseason. That's exactly where the Bucks stand after Game 2 on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Milwaukee is a complete team in more ways than one. The defense has been there almost every night. The Bucks have held their opponents under a point per possession (the measure of elite defense) in six of their 11 games and only once (their Game 1 loss to Boston) have they allowed them to score more than what was the league average (109.7 points scored per 100 possessions) in the regular season. Even with the rise in three-point shooting over the last few years, the most important shots on the floor remain those at the basket, and no team has been better at both preventing and defending those shots than the Bucks. After allowing a league-low 29.6 points per game in the restricted area in the regular season, the Bucks have allowed just 22.0 per game in the playoffs. In this series, Raptors drives have been met with a swarm of Milwaukee defenders, making it difficult to either score in the paint or get off a clean pass to an open shooter. After shooting 57 percent in the paint through the first two rounds (in which they faced two very good defenses), the Raptors have shot just 49 percent (36-for-73) in the paint through the first two games of the conference finals. On Toronto's first possession of Game 2, Marc Gasol posted up Khris Middleton after a switch and spun around Middleton for a layup, only to be rejected by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Raptors went scoreless on their first five possessions, had just 39 points on 49 possessions at halftime, and were too far behind for a 39-point third quarter to matter much. "I think the way we played on both ends of the court in the first half," Budenholzer said afterward, "is what we're trying to get to." After a bit of an offensive struggle in Game 1, the Bucks broke out on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The elite defense led to 28 fast-break points, a size advantage inside led to 17 second-chance points, and six of their nine rotation players scored in double-figures. Three of those six came off the bench. While Toronto coach Nick Nurse has had to both shorten and alter his rotation in these playoffs, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has seemingly found contributors wherever he has turned. George Hill and Pat Connaughton were huge in the Boston series, Malcolm Brogdon didn't need long to find his rhythm after missing the first eight postseason games, and on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), Ersan Ilyasova had what Budenholzer called "clearly his best game of the year," scoring 17 points, drawing three charges, and registering a plus-22 in just over 21 minutes off the bench. The Bucks have the presumed Kia MVP, but their biggest strength in these playoffs has been their depth. Through 11 games, they've outscored their opponents by 12.0 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo off the floor. Unlike his fellow Eastern Conference coaches, Budenholzer has never had to rush his best player back onto the floor. And this team is now 10-1 with Antetokounmpo ranking 40th in postseason minutes per game at 32.3. While the Raptors' offense has struggled to take advantage of the attention paid to Kawhi Leonard, every Bucks rotation player has played with confidence and freedom. "They're not going to let me play one-on-one," Antetokounmpo said after registering 30 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in Game 2. "So this series is not going to be about me; it's going to be about my teammates being ready to shoot, being ready to make the right play." "We try and empower them," Budenholzer said of his team's role players. "We try to play a way where they all feel like they can contribute and do things. Hopefully that's paying off for us." There's no argument to the contrary. But is there an argument against this team being the favorite to win the championship? While it remains difficult to pick against the team that won last year and remains intact, new champions come along all the time, and it's easier to see them in hindsight than in the moment. Of course, as good as they've been playing and as special as this run has felt, Bucks players refuse to get ahead of themselves. "You can't," Eric Bledsoe said. "That's how you lose focus. The biggest thing with this group is just taking a game at a time, and not looking forward to The Finals. Anything can happen. So we're focused on Game 3." "It's a great opportunity that we have," George Hill added, "but it means nothing until we get there." The players have to keep their minds on Toronto. But the rest of us can feel free to envision the future, one that includes an NBA championship. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Raptors running out of options as series shifts to Toronto

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE – The Toronto Raptors are two bounces on the rim into their Eastern Conference championship series against Milwaukee. Two more and – unless things change radically for the Raptors in every phase of the game from what we’ve seen – the basketball metaphor of their 2019 postseason is going to fall harmlessly to the side. No points, no buzzer-beater, no victory, no nothing. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Two games into this best-of-seven series, it’s already hard to see a way out for the Raptors that doesn’t include Hefty bags, cleaned-out lockers and a wide-open month of June. Toronto played well enough to win in Game 1, yet managed to lose it anyway thanks to an open elevator shaft of a fourth quarter that qualified instantly as something that would haunt them. Then they played miserably in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 2, save for a stretch in the third quarter when slippage in Milwaukee’s focus appeared as culpable as anything Raptors-related. Kyle Lowry, Toronto’s veteran point guard, is wandering around these days with a modified blue oven mitt on his left hand. It’s there to protect the thumb he sprained in Game 7 against Philadelphia. That’s the game that got the Raptors here, the one decided by Kawhi Leonard’s eternal-highlight shot at the end that bounced four times on the rim before dropping through the net. It’s been kind of downhill for their crew since then. Anyway, Lowry was asked a series of questions after Milwaukee's 125-103 triumph at Fiserv Forum about the defense, about the rebounding, about the shift from the Bucks’ floor to the Raptors’ for Games 3 and 4 beginning Sunday (Monday, PHL time). And Lowry earnestly answered by saying, yes, they have to defend better, they have to rebound better and they definitely have to assert themselves more to defend their Scotiabank Arena home court. Lowry said the right things. Problem is, that’s a lot of things. The Raptors don’t appear to have the wherewithal – or even the duct tape, if you prefer – to fix so many flaws at once. They have been outrebounded 113-86, a major factor in the Bucks’ 41-20 advantage in second-chance points. They have been outscored by 30 points in the two games and most of the difference has come from the bench (76-51), adding to the sense that Milwaukee isn’t just beating Toronto, it’s ganging up on them. Defensively, the Raptors haven’t been nearly good enough and their coach, Nick Nurse, put the blame squarely on them. He went into detail – both before and after Game 2 – to explain the difference between a good contest of a jump shot and a great, playoffs-worthy contest. After talking at length before tipoff about needing and hoping to see effort from his players as a sign they grasped the urgency involved, it had to be embarrassing for Nurse to acknowledge afterward that, no, that effort in fact was not there. “We were just a step too slow on just about everything,” he observed. To illustrate how casually his players closed on Bucks’ shooters, Nurse did a deep dive on a play in which center Marc Gasol needed to get out to Nikola Mirotic. “It was a good contest, but it wasn't a full-out contest,” the Toronto coach said. “We know the level of contest is going to affect these shots or not, and if you don't go with everything you've got and jump high and really try to let them know you're right pressed up against them, then the chances of [the shots] going in are pretty good.” Poor Gasol. This supremely skilled big man who was so valuable to the Memphis Grizzlies in numerous playoff wars is an early nominee for series scapegoat here. He at least had 12 rebounds and five assists in the opener, but his contributions and minutes fizzled in Game 2. By the time he got to 1-for-9 (3-for-20 in the series), the 34-year-old Gasol was looking creakier than his brother Pau, 38, who was wheeling himself through the halls on a scooter Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) after undergoing foot surgery this week. Then there’s Danny Green, a helpful 3-and-D guy with tons of postseason experience from his San Antonio days. Green’s challenge has been touching the ball enough to make a difference; he’s 3-for-11, getting about two thirds as many shots as he’d expect. But as he noted, Toronto’s ball movement has been spotty, the Bucks’ top-ranked defense stingy and little has been done to alter either from one game to the next. “Our offense was out of whack a little bit tonight, and we didn’t tighten it up,” Green said. A little more Norman Powell, a little less Gasol going forward? Doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough. Now take Pascal Siakam and Lowry from the margin for error that Toronto really doesn’t have. They were good for 45 points in the opener but scored a total of 23 Friday (Saturday, PHL time), each burdened with foul trouble from daring to mess with Milwaukee’s gears. Siakam, a favorite to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, wound up as the night’s most removed player, his minutes dropping from more than 42 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) to 26 on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). There’s no reason to let Leonard off the hook, either. The Raptors’ best player has scored 31 points in each game, but they’ve been about as quiet as 62 points can be, coming almost from a bubble that has nothing in common with the rest of Toronto’s attack. Sometimes Leonard is bailing them out, sure, but many times the ball and the possession stop with him. The Bucks are OK with that, defending him with Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and helpers. Leonard has taken 20 of his team’s 45 free throws, but dished only four assists in the two games. That’s one area in which Leonard is so different from – and so far in this series, lacking when compared to – Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks’ star, with his gravitational pull on defenders, creates a bounty of opportunities for others. Leonard isn’t making any of his teammates better at this stage. And let’s not forget the intangibles. Antetokounmpo is the catalyst for Milwaukee’s superior team chemistry, a top-five talent who is all in on the Bucks’ ambitions and the players corralled around him. Leonard? For all anyone knows, he still has one foot out the door to free agency. His laconic nature doesn’t lend itself to firing up others, and it’s difficult to see how he leads by anything other than example. The cloud of Leonard’s future has been squatting over Toronto’s whole season. Every game is a referendum on whether he feels he has enough help or not. Does Nurse or another Raptors coach dare to challenge him, for fear he’ll start packing his bags immediately? Did anyone object to his “load management” nights off this season? It has been a tough way to grind through a long year, held hostage by your star’s inscrutability. But it’s what they signed up for when GM Masai Ujiri traded for him with just one season to woo and recruit. Compare that to what Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was sharing about Antetokounmpo, as far as pushing him to greater heights. “We're coaching him and we're on him,” Budenholzer said. “We think he can be doing more, and he just soaks it up.” As the series shifts to Canada, the Raptors will look to Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) third quarter as quickly as the Bucks will dismiss it. Toronto outscored Milwaukee 39-31 over those 12 minutes, the only portion of the game in which they managed to send a ripple of nervousness through the building. OK, well, maybe not quite that, but a few fans surely noticed that what had been a 28-point lead soon after halftime got chiseled down to 13. Not once, but twice. But Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill went to work off the Bucks’ bench, Giannis came back mean-muggin’ to start the fourth and that most definitely was that. Playoff protocol says we must give the Raptors their home games to demonstrate a difference. But they need to know that 0-2 is a gaping hole, from which only 20 teams in NBA history have come back in a seven-game series. Two more bounces on the rim, and we’ll see which way the Raptors fall. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Warriors miss Kevin Durant, but do they need him?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Along with the equipment, uniforms, basketballs and the confidence that comes with being up 2-0 in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors brought along another piece of cargo to Portland and it is the heaviest of them all. It didn’t come packed in luggage or a box; instead, it’s just wrapped in a hunch and tied with a question mark, and it is this: When do the Warriors start missing Kevin Durant? [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The back-to-back champs are now 3-0 in these playoffs without their superstar and his aching calf. And 4-0 overall in games in which Durant didn’t finish. That probably says something about the Rockets, and so far about the Trail Blazers — two teams unable to exploit his absence. However, while the (bleeping) Giants — Steve Kerr’s description of his undermanned team — are honorably playing with a sense of urgency, they aren’t buying the notion that they don’t need Durant. It’s an easy trap to fall into, to believe the outside chatter that they’re better off without him. The next two games, both at Moda Center, will either feed that belief or destroy it. Yes, because the Blazers must beat the Warriors four out of five to advance, there’s little to no chance of them denying Golden State a fifth trip to the Finals regardless of whether Durant shows up in this series or not. And that’s good for the visitors, since Durant didn’t make the trip for Games 3 and 4. “There's no mental adjustment,” said Kerr. “You just play. You go out there with what you have, and this is our third game, 3 1/2 games, really without him, and so we're just trying to hold down the fort. Hopefully he continues to progress and he has made progress, but it's a little more serious than we thought at the very beginning. So we'll see where it all goes, but he's in there all day long getting treatment. He's done a great job of committing himself to that process.” There’s a thought that, even if Durant was 80 percent, the Warriors will keep him benched to prevent a chance of re-injury, and that’s a wise decision with wide-ranging ramifications. By protecting Durant’s best interest here in this free agent year, the Warriors score big points with him and his camp less than two months before Durant must make a decision on his future. That said, what are the Warriors doing right to remain unharmed by his absence? The easy answer is they won championships without Durant and so this is more of the same-old, same-old. Except it isn’t. This actually might be more impressive. Understand that Golden State's system had to be changed here on the fly and in the middle of the postseason, not only to compensate for Durant’s 37 points per game in these playoffs, but also his defense. Once Durant was lost late in the third quarter of the fifth game of the second round, Kerr had to reach down his bench and rely on players who weren’t thrust into roles of significance and seldom saw fourth-quarter minutes up until this point. Meaning, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie have either seen their minutes rise and/or their roles inflated in the process. Of course, most of the burden fell on the proven core: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Each of those four, in his own way, is playing at a premium, even if it’s a small sample size. “That’s what it takes in the playoffs," said Kerr. "You have to have guys playing at a really high level.” Curry seems reborn or at least sprung free of a playoff fog where his numbers and production didn’t match his regular season. He finished strong in a pair of fourth quarters while closing out the Rockets and is the most impactful player in this series so far. He’s averaging 35 points on 51 percent shooting in the three games without KD. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suspect Curry is getting a charge out of this, and his ego, which he keeps hidden, is being fed. Thompson is now clearly the second option, whereas before he was often No. 3 and often only if his shot was falling. The green light never turns yellow without Durant around, like Curry, Thompson is working without handcuffs or a leash. After hitting 20 shot attempts once in the playoffs before Durant’s injury, Thompson is now hoisting 22 a game, good for a respectable 25-point average. The Warriors are constantly feeding him and running screens for him and urging him to take the shot, even if it’s contested. For a player who insists he’ll re-sign with Golden State this summer, Thompson is getting a taste of what life must be like if he played for, let’s say, the Clippers and was the focal point of the offense. “This team's been together a long time and they trust each other,” said Kerr. “When the ball starts moving, that's when we're tough to guard.” Green has never been better this season than in the last few weeks. Recharged after losing weight immediately following the All-Star break and no longer feeling pain in his previously-injured shoulder, Green is menacing on the defensive end where once again he’s guarding all positions except point guard and doing it marvelously. In addition, he’s pushing the ball up court to help Curry and Thompson stay as fresh as possible and directing the offense from the high post. He’s averaging 10 rebounds, 6.5 assists and three blocks without KD. “You know, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and say, `Hey, man, when is K going to be back?’ We just got to play with whatever we got,” Green said. “We got to play and give him an opportunity to get back, and I think that's what really falls on our shoulders. We're a very confident group. Hopefully he's back sooner than later, but as a guy who is in the battle every night, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and wonder when he or DeMarcus [Cousins] is coming back. We have to assume they are not coming back and play with what we got. Obviously, we are hoping that they do. But while they are not out there, we just got to play.” Finally, there’s Iguodala. He stayed hibernated all regular season while averaging career lows across the board. At age 35, it appeared time had finally caught up. Instead, this was a case of a crafty veteran preserving himself for springtime, and with the amount of talent on the Warriors, he could afford to do so. Iguodala had solid moments guarding James Harden in the second round and is among those trapping Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum this round. One of the signature plays of the series was Iguodala coming up with a walk-off strip of Lillard as time expired in Game 2. “You're kind of in awe of it because not many guys can make plays like that consistently,” said Curry. So this is where the Warriors are without Durant and also DeMarcus Cousins. They were good enough to stump the Rockets (again), then proved too much for the Blazers in a pair of home games. Nobody would be shocked if they take a game in Portland or maybe finish the sweep. It’s a luxury that few teams have or could pull off even if they did. This comes from a core that’s been together for six years, a coach pulling the proper strings and a bench that isn’t shrinking in the moment. “We feel like we can still win no matter who is out there on the floor, and that's why we're in the position that we’re in and have won championships with all the injuries and all types of stuff,” said Curry. “We know what the mission is, and we're on it right now.” These Warriors are playing flashback basketball to the time before Durant came aboard — and prepping themselves for next season, when and if Durant jumps overboard this summer. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Lopez sticks to the Bucks plan, and it s more fun for everyone

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE — Come for the three-point melodrama, stay for the rim protection, the put-backs, the block-outs and the blocked shots. Come for the anguish and frustration that plays out across Brook Lopez’s face over the course of a typical NBA game, stay for the maniacal, jubilant, fourth-quarter clapping that gets turned into a GIF and goes viral within minutes. Brook Lopez clapping violently dot gif pic.twitter.com/a22arVkUSc — CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 16, 2019 Come for the unbuttoned Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball jersey, stay for the Disney fashion T-shirt showing beneath it and the Pizza Planet cap up top. “I’ve always tried to have fun when I go out and play basketball,” said Lopez. The Milwaukee Bucks’ center embodied his team’s performance as they clawed back Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, beating the Toronto Raptors, 108-100, Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “I obviously love playing the game,” said Lopez, dressed like a 7-foot 10-year-old for his podium appearance. “But no question I’ve been having a great time here.” Lopez, 31, scored 29 points, a personal playoff best, and grabbed 11 rebounds. It was his first 20-point night of the Bucks’ 10 playoff games so far, only the fourth of his career (he has appeared in just 23 postseason games in 11 seasons). And it came on the heels of a Game 5 effort against Boston a week ago in which Lopez was held scoreless. Milwaukee clinched anyway. This one was an ordeal for Lopez and for the Bucks, an opener in the best-of-seven series in which they slogged through three quarters without much touch or rhythm. The style of play they’ve embraced over 82 games and the past month of postseason was betraying them; Milwaukee kept hoisting and missing three-pointers, as single-mindedly in spite of horrid results as if they all wore beards and played for Houston. The resulting nastiness: A 6-for-34 (17.6 percent) showing from the arc, while digging an 83-76 hole that maxed out at 13 points. Lopez was a notable offender. He missed his first three from deep and only broke through midway through the second quarter. His shot from out front that got the Bucks within 42-37 was followed by a reaction of one part frustration, one part exasperation and a couple parts relief. That’s the wide open space of Lopez’s game, out there on the wing or in the corner launching for all the world to see. Home fans seem to live and die on each attempt, riding an emotional rollercoaster while – on nights such as this one – they wait for his results to regress to the mean. That finally happened in the fourth quarter. Lopez – who shot a total of 31 three-pointers in his first eight seasons, 300-plus in each of the next two and ultimately 512 in 2018-19 with the Bucks – hit two to get his team going in the quarter. His third in the period, one possession after Lopez finished a slo-mo fast-break for a 101-100 lead, sent Toronto into a timeout, down four with 1:55 left. That was when Lopez came with the clapping. And when play resumed, there was Lopez again, getting a hand on Kawhi Leonard’s attempt to attack the rim, stripping and corralling the ball for a block and rebound. As good as Kyle Lowry was over the final 12 minutes, as potent as the Raptors’ offense was at certain points earlier, they were done scoring for the night. Lopez did the small stuff all night, even finishing off the dribble a couple times. It’s just that, by virtue of how he and the Bucks have played this season, those things get overshadowed by the broad strokes that didn’t go his way until late. “This is the Brook we all know and we all love,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo. Said Khris Middleton: “He’s a beast. Inside the paint, made some big plays for us. On the defensive end, he covers up so much for our mistakes.” The Bucks’ adherence to what works has been tested for quarters, for halves, but so far only for one whole game in these playoffs – they dropped the opener against Boston. Milwaukee won the next four in a row to oust the Celtics. In the dressing room afterward, there was chatter that they’d snatched one away, that they couldn't have played worse – at least on offense. In that fourth quarter, outscoring Toronto 32-17, Milwaukee made up for a multitude of sins. The Bucks hit 50 percent of their shots, missed only 1-of-10 free throws and dominated the boards (14-4) to finish with a 60-45 edge. The Raptors were held to 5-of-22 shooting in the quarter. And Lopez, dragging a minus-5 plus/minus rating through three quarters, was sitting on a plus-7 by the horn. The key? Absolutely faith in the style they’ve honed since late September, and a commitment to letting it fly. Whether we’re talking about a conscienceless approach to three-pointers or Lopez’s irrepressible good nature. He has made as many as eight three-pointers in a game this season (at Denver, Nov. 12, PHL time) and attempted as many as 15 (vs. Brooklyn, Dec. 30, PHL time). There is no such thing as too many. “That’s what my teammates have been telling me,” Lopez said. “George Hill specifically and then [Giannis], too. They just stick in my mind: ‘Keep shooting the ball, you just need one to go down. Keep letting it fly.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 16th, 2019

No extra drama needed for Nuggets, Blazers in Game 7

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER -- All the posturing you can muster won’t win you this all-important game. No amount of name-calling, shoving, screaming, shouting or tough guy antics and gestures will save you when it’s all on the line in Game 7 of the NBA playoffs. And there are enough guys playing for both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers that know it, even if most of them have only observed a Game 7 from the stands or even further afar. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s a simple proposition, these Game 7 affairs. You win, you play on. Your season continues and all of the goals you set are still attainable. You lose, you’re done. None of the things you believed in before that last opening tip of the season remain. Pack up your stuff and head home for the summer. That’s the reality, the fate both the Nuggets and Trail Blazers are facing Sunday afternoon (Monday morning, PHL time) at Pepsi Center, the all-important Game 7 showdown in the Western Conference semifinals that will define one team’s season and render the other’s mute. There’s a finality to it, a certain air of drama that cannot be found anywhere else in the postseason. So it doesn’t matter if you have “sassy *** dudes, frontrunners,” as Blazers reserve guard Seth Curry put it after things got chippy late in Game 6 Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), one side or broadcast talent on the other taking cheap and unnecessary shots at injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, Sunday afternoon's (Monday, PHL time) business is an up-and-down affair for all involved. Win and you play on or lose and you’re done. “I’m looking forward to Game 7,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Games 7s are special.” No extracurricular activity from either side will change that fact. “Both teams want to win the game,” said Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. “Basketball is an emotional game. Of course, we’re going to talk trash or whatever. Both teams just want to win the game.” That doesn’t mean you don’t look for every advantage possible to help fuel your cause. Blazers big man Zach Collins played a huge role in making sure this series found its way to Game 7, joining Rodney Hood in providing a huge boost off the bench in Game 6. And it was more than just his season-high 29 minutes and playoff career-high 14 points and five blocks. It was his physicality and activity around the rim and in the paint on both ends of the floor, his refusal to allow the Nuggets to find a groove. “We’ve just got to go in and keep playing our game,” Collins said. “I said it after the game, [Denver] has been way too comfortable for a lot of games in this series and [in Game 6] we made them a little uncomfortable. We just need to continue that, regardless of if it’s a Game 7 or not. Obviously, it’s win or go home for both teams. It’s going to be very difficult, especially in [Denver] to go in and get a win, but we can do it.” The Nuggets leaned on their sterling 34-7 record at Pepsi Center during the regular season, the best home mark in the league, as a confidence booster two weeks ago. “We have the best home court advantage in the NBA,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We’re going to rely on that once again and try to close it out in Game 7.” The Nuggets owning that recency advantage: they needed a Game 7 win here to survive the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, means something. The game and that series provided lessons Malone’s postseason rookies need to tap into this time around, even if they don’t realize it now. “It’s weird,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “Everybody keeps talking about experience. And I just want to say that we’ve been here before. [We go] back home and regroup like we did for San Antonio, come back with energy and just … be ready to play. I think we had too many lapses [in Game 6]. Dame [Lillard] felt really comfortable, he wasn’t comfortable last time, so we need to be tougher on him … like I said, just regroup, come back and get a win.” If only it was that simple. The pressure to get out of the first round is one thing. The opportunity to make the conference finals is a different monster. The Nuggets last played in a conference final in 2009, when Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Nene led the way. That group had a mix of seasoned pros who had championship (Billups) and extensive experience (Billups and Martin) competing on a championship level, to go along with younger and emerging superstar talent like Anthony. And they were ultimately no match for the Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol-led Los Angeles Lakers. So these current Nuggets are well within their right to acknowledge the very real anxiety that comes with a game of this magnitude. “No nerves, “Jokic said. “I just felt something different the first game of the playoffs because it was something different. Just because we call it the playoffs, Besides that, everything else is the same.” The Blazers haven’t seen a Game 7 since a 2003 first-round series against Dallas. But they do not believe the absence of experience in this case makes any bit of difference. “It’s just another game -- a game we want to win, obviously,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. “We understand what’s at stake. Somebody’s got to go home. Somebody’s got to go to Cabo, go to Cancun, as Chuck [Barkley] would say. For us, it’s go out there and compete, find the coach’s game plan, understanding that it’s going to be a pretty hostile crowd and they’ll be confident at home, but we’ve got to bring the energy and pressure just like we did [in Game 6].” Damian Lillard has guided his team this far and promised to stick to the basics in the days and hours leading up to the game. Rested bodies and minds are crucial. “The number one thing is have our minds right,” he said. “Don’t overthink, don’t make some big crazy deal or anything like that. We’re going to play a basketball game. It’s a big game and we’ve won on their floor before and we know what type of mentality we had when we did that. We’ve got to go out there, be tough, be physical, be sharp in our scouting report, play for each other, play with each other on both ends and just put the pressure on them. “Make them earn everything on their offensive end and then when we get the ball, make sure that we get shots up,” Lillard continued with his simple but extremely detailed breakdown of what needs to be done. “Value every possession, don’t go out there turning the ball over, playing into their hands where they get an opportunity to get their crowd involved. So that has to be our mentality, to just be sharp, be physical, go in there ready to take the game, because the only way it’s going to happen is us going in there and taking it.” It’s a Game 7, after all, no extra drama needed. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2019

Raptors dominate without super performance from Kawhi

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com TORONTO -- Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse didn't believe his team needed another huge performance from Kawhi Leonard to win Game 5 of of his team's Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors were 17-5 without Leonard in the regular season. Kyle Lowry is an All-Star, Pascal Siakam is the next big thing, and the Raptors' go eight deep with capable NBA players with postseason experience. But that 17-5 record without Leonard broke down to 13-0 against non-playoff teams and 4-5 against playoff teams. And in this series, Leonard simply wasn't getting a lot of help. His 68 points over Games 2 and 3 weren't enough, and the Raptors needed every bit of his 39 to win Game 4 in Philadelphia on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and essentially keep their season alive. The guy was averaging 38 points on 62 percent shooting, and they were a possession or two from being down 3-1. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] So yeah, to have Leonard come back down to earth somewhat and still get a blowout, 125-89 victory on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) to take a 3-2 series lead? It was somewhat comforting, as you might imagine. "It was good to prove it a little bit in the playoffs," Nurse said of winning without a superhuman performance from Leonard. "I don't know if 'relief' is the right word, but it's nice to see other guys pick it up." "We needed this type of game where everyone played well," Lowry added. "I don't think we had a game like this in a while. We've still got another level that I think we can play at offensively and defensively. But it was a good team win. We needed that type of win just for our team." Leonard began the game by stripping Ben Simmons on Philly's first two possessions. He had two spectacular dunks, one over multiple Sixers at the end of the first half and another on Joel Embiid's head in the third quarter. He scored 21 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out four assists. But he missed more than half of his shots for just the second time in 10 postseason games, and he did not need to carry his team like he did through the first four games of this series. He was more of a "normal" All-Star than the relentless machine that was shooting a seemingly unsustainable 57 percent from outside the paint prior to Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). With Leonard missing his first four shots of Game 4, the Raptors were in a little bit of a hole. The Sixers scored on nine straight possessions and led by seven midway through the first quarter. But after the last of those nine straight Philly scores, Lowry took the inbounds pass, pushed the ball up the floor, and drew a foul on Greg Monroe. On the next possession, Lowry stripped Monroe, leading to a fast break where Leonard found Siakam for a corner three. Two possessions later, a Lowry/Siakam pick-and-pop resulted in another Siakam three-pointer that tied the game. Two possessions after that, Siakam tipped out a Leonard miss and Norman Powell fed Fred VanVleet, who had missed 12 straight shots in the series, for a triple that put the Raptors up four. It was a 12-1 run that gave the Raptors the lead for good, and Leonard was just a cog in the machine, instead of being the entire machine himself. Leonard shot 7-for-16 and missed all four of his three-point attempts. But every other Raptors shot with the confidence that he had earlier in the series. Long gone was the hesitancy which plagued them in Game 3. And Nurse believes his team started to find itself in Game 4, when the Raptors got just enough support from Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to even the series. "I thought I sensed a little bit better rhythm the other night," Nurse said. "There's three things: You gotta get your feet ready, you gotta get your hands ready, and you gotta between your ears ready to know you're going to pull the trigger and know that you're going to do it. I thought it showed the other night that we were a little bit less hesitant and that again puts you in rhythm." Earlier in this series, ball movement wasn't necessarily a good thing for the Raptors, because Leonard was scoring more efficiently by calling his own number than his teammates were when he was forced to give up the ball. But his off-the-dribble efficiency was bound to regress, and the tide may have turned in regard to his teammates' ability to support him. For the first time in this postseason, six different Raptors scored in double figures in Game 5. The seven rotation players not named Leonard shot 14-for-32 (44 percent) from three-point range. "I think the version of us you saw tonight is probably the best version and a little bit more balanced," VanVleet said. "[Leonard] did a great job of spreading it around a little bit. They showed some more bodies, as you would expect for a guy averaging 40. They were sending more bodies at him and he was moving it pretty well. That was good for us." The Raptors certainly benefited from another sluggish performance from Embiid, who was still suffering from the illness that slowed him down in Game 4. If possible, he looked even more disengaged on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), scoring just 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting and turning the ball over eight times. Embiid couldn't put the ball on the floor without losing control of it, and he didn't have the energy to get in the post, too often settling for three-point attempts that the Raptors were happy to have him shoot. But the Raptors had a lot to do with the Sixers scoring just 73 points on 80 possessions before garbage time set in. They cut off Ben Simmons' drives to the basket, crowded the Sixers in the paint, and were more active on the perimeter, picking up 12 steals. Some of that improved offensive rhythm was a product of what has been the No. 1-ranked defense in the postseason. So after Game 5, there was no "Kyle Lowry struggles to score in the playoffs" narrative. There was no wondering if the Sixers were just too big for VanVleet or if Gasol needed to be more aggressive. There was just a return to what the Raptors had been for most of this season, which is a lot more than a one-man show. "We're a team," Siakam said. "All year, that's what we've done. Even times when Kawhi didn't play, we always came together. "Kawhi's an amazing player. And when there's nights where he's going the way he's going, and he's scoring 40, and shooting fadeaways, and making all those shots, it's kind of amazing to see. But at the same time, we know we're a team, and we always have each other's back. And at the end of the day, we have to keep playing." One more win and they'll keep playing into the conference finals. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

Bucks stars sit down, supporting cast steps up

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON – Giannis Antetokounmpo sat down. Khris Middleton sat down. And the Milwaukee Bucks’ chance of beating the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series seemed to sit down with them. In a hostile arena, against an opponent that by all rights should have been desperate (though the emotion never did quite translate to the Celtics’ performance), losing your best two players to foul trouble at a crucial point in the second half should have been too much for Milwaukee. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Antetokounmpo got whistled for his fourth personal foul with 8:18 left in the third quarter, the teams tied at 59-59. Before the score ever budged, 61 seconds later, Middleton got his fourth. It was automatic for Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer to yank both his All-Stars, with so much game left and the risk of one or both fouling out so great. This should have been the opportunity the Celtics needed. They had misfired their way to that point, shooting 37 percent overall in the first half and 4-of-19 on three-pointers. But they had their full complement of starters available. Boston should have pounced. Boston should have cracked open the game right there and earned itself a 2-2 series tie. Instead, the Bucks stiffened, then pushed back. They might even have ended the series, turning that stretch of resiliency to end the third quarter into a 113-101 victory. They hold a 3-1 lead now with a chance to close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) and advance to the conference finals. That’s how pivotal the Bucks’ plucky response to adversity was. They not only fended off the Celtics during that star-starved stretch, they took the lead: Milwaukee went on a little 13-9 run to the 2:31 mark of the third, triggering a timeout by Boston coach Brad Stevens. Then play resumed, and the Bucks outscored them again 8-4 to close the quarter. It was the exact opposite of what should have happened, Milwaukee opening up an 80-72 lead while playing shorthanded, and Boston squandering such a ripe chance to seize the game. Yet there wasn’t much surprise showing in the visitors’ dressing room. “We were just playing the same way,” said center Brook Lopez. “We always say, ‘Same way. Same way,’ and just keep grinding. We did a great job these past two games just grinding for the first 30, 35 minutes or whatever, and then just taking advantage whenever the moment comes.” This should have been Boston’s moment, though. It’s true that the Bucks’ depth has been a weapon all season and that their role players have prided themselves on maintaining -- or adding to -- leads. But c’mon, they were working without a net this time. Antetokounmpo and Middleton had to sit for a while at least, if not the balance of the quarter. The worst thing that could happen if they came back too soon would be picking up their fifth fouls. The second-worst thing would be playing overly cautious to avoid doing that. Didn’t the players who stepped into the breach feel the burden? “We didn’t really feel that way,” Lopez said. “We had that trust and belief in one another. We were just trying not to have any sort of letdown.” Budenholzer dealt with the fragile situation by reminding himself that he typically subs out his stars in that general vicinity of the game. Keeping them fresh for the fourth quarter is a priority, particularly with Antetokounmpo. It’s just that this time, the terms were dictated to the Bucks coach. “It’s always hard to take out Giannis, let’s just start there,” Budenholzer said. But he added, “Because of our normal subs rotation, it wasn’t as tough to take him out.” Lopez, George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova, Eric Bledsoe, Nikola Mirotic, Pat Connaughton and Sterling Brown all played during Antetokounmpo’s and Middleton’s absences. (Middleton returned for an uneventful final 20 seconds in the period.) Bledsoe got it going offensively, then Hill – not unlike his super-sub showing in Game 3 – scored nine of Milwaukee’s final 11 points in the quarter. And they all locked in defensively, making life miserable for a Celtics team that never recovered. “Absolutely. We’re always defense first,” Lopez said. “I think we even stepped up our intensity in that moment.” The Greek Freak, while all this was going on, sat between deep reserves D.J. Wilson and inactive rookie Donte DiVincenzo with a concerned look on his face and nervous energy bouncing through one leg. Tough benchmate? “I mean, he’s one of those guys who wants to play all 48,” Wilson said. “He hates when he comes out. He’s kind of like that every game.” Said Antetokounmpo: “It’s amazing to see that the bench can keep playing hard, keep defending hard and set the tone for us.” The past two games, the Bucks’ bench has outscored Boston’s 74-23. So Milwaukee didn’t just survive, it thrived. It started the fourth with its top guys more rested than usual. And oh, did it show. Antetokounmpo scored 17 points in that quarter, but, playing all 12 minutes during which he scored half of the Bucks’ 12 field goals and grabbed seven rebounds. Middleton was scoreless but was a plus-seven the rest of the way, second only to Connaughton’s plus-11. Boston wound up trading baskets for much of the fourth. Al Horford’s layup at 7:25 got his team within 91-86, only to see Lopez and Antetokounmpo score all of the Bucks’ points in a 14-6 stretch that ate up five minutes. The home team seemed to be fraying, bringing an air of inevitability to the night. Speculation that it might have been All-Star guard Kyrie Irving’s final game as a Celtic in Boston – he’ll be a free agent this summer and never has seemed particularly happy here – began immediately. Irving, after a golden Game 1, has played haphazardly in the past three while shooting a combined 19-of-62. “Who cares?” he said. “It’s a little different when your rhythm is challenged every play down. You’re being picked up full court. They’re doing things to test you. The expectations on me are going to be sky high. I try to utilize their aggression against them and still put my teammates in great positions, while still being aggressive and trying to do it all. “For me, the 22 shots? I should have shot 30.” The Bucks, boasting strong chemistry since training camp, never has looked tighter. In fact, when Lopez was asked if he felt a sense of relief that they reached the fourth quarter without getting pummeled, he wouldn’t go there. “I don’t think it’s a sense of relief,” he said. “I don’t want to say that, because one through 15 we have trust in everyone in this locker room. Whoever we have out on the floor, we’re never like, ‘Oh damn, we’re stuck with these guys.’” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2019

Numbers to know heading into Raptors-Sixers Game 5

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com It's not clear that, by the end of the Eastern Conference semifinals series between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers, we'll know which is the better team. One of these teams is going to beat the other four times. But it may just be a case of survival, one team scratching out four wins and moving on to the conference finals. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Through four games, this has been the least efficient series in the conference semifinals, with the teams combining to score just 104 points per 100 possessions. The two teams rank sixth and eighth in offensive efficiency among the eight teams playing in this round. "We haven't been in great rhythm here in the last few games," Raptors coach Nick Nurse admitted Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). "That's playing the same team over and over." The Raptors did score 101 points on 93 possessions in Game 4, their second-best offensive game of the series. The Sixers have been the better offensive team overall, but have really had just one good offensive game and three rough ones. Game 2 was one of two in these playoffs where a team won while scoring less than a point per possession. A slow grind This series has also been played at a pace (95.4 possessions per team per 48 minutes) slower than that of any NBA team in the regular season. And that could an issue for the Sixers, who played at a faster pace than the Raptors in the regular season and at a much faster pace than Toronto in the first round. The 95.4 rating is only 0.3 possessions per 48 minutes slower than the Toronto-Orlando series, but it's 10.2 possessions per 48 slower than the Philly-Brooklyn series. Prior to Game 4, it was noted that the Raptors weren't scoring in transition as efficiently as they did in the regular season. With J.J. Redick having shot 5-for-6 from three-point range in the first six seconds of the shot clock, the Sixers have actually scored very efficiently in transition in this series: 1.33 points per transition possession. But they haven't gotten the same number of transition opportunities as they did in the regular season or in the first round. In the regular season, Philly scored 1.07 points per possession (a bottom-10 rate) on 20.0 transition possessions per game. In the first round against Brooklyn, the Sixers scored just 1.00 points per possession on 19.0 transition possessions per game. In this series, they've scored those 1.33 points per possession, but on just 13.5 transition possessions per game. Against Brooklyn, Ben Simmons averaged 3.6 shots per game in the first six seconds of the shot clock, according to Second Spectrum tracking. In the conference semis, he has just five total field-goal attempts in the first six seconds. The Raptors have seemingly won the pace battle, in part because they've averaged only 5.5 live-ball turnovers per game, with Brooklyn having averaged 7.8 in the first round. But Sixers coach Brett Brown explained after Game 2 that, with his team's shorter rotation and the remaining players playing more minutes, it's more difficult to push the ball in transition on every opportunity. "We'll try from time to time to play as fast as we can," Brown said, "but the reality is it's just a grind. And when you shrink your rotation, you're probably not going to be able to call upon that type of freshness as much as if you were playing like a normal 9 1/2, 10 [guys]." Problems in the paint The bigger difference between Toronto's two wins and Philadelphia's two wins has been on the Toronto end of the floor, where he Raptors have scored 109.4 points per 100 possessions in Games 1 and 4, and just 96.8 in Games 2 and 3. But one number stands out in regard to the Sixers' offense in wins vs. losses. In their two wins, they've shot 45-for-77 (58 percent) in the paint. In their two losses, they've shot 37-for-79 (47 percent) in the paint. "We have to own some of it," Brown said Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) of his team's inability to finish in Game 4. "You give credit to Toronto's length and their attention to that area." Indeed, the Raptors played bigger in Game 4 and Serge Ibaka blocked three shots inside. In the regular season, Philly ranked fifth in field goal percentage in the paint (57.4 percent), but 17th in effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (49.3 percent). So defending the former seems like a good priority for Toronto. Of course, if the Raptors are going to collapse in the paint and focus on contesting shots inside, the Sixers will get open looks on the perimeter. They made 12 three's on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), but Tobias Harris (2-for-13) and Mike Scott (0-for-3) were a combined 2-for-16 from beyond the arc. Over the four games, Harris (7-for-22) has attempted more catch-and-shoot three's than J.J. Redick (9-for-20), which is probably a good thing for the Raptors. Right after Kawhi Leonard hit the biggest shot of the series on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Harris missed a wide-open corner three when the Toronto defense collapsed on a Joel Embiid roll to the rim. If Harris made that shot, it's back to a one-point game with about 40 seconds left. Alas, he missed and the Raptors made enough free throws to seal the game and even the series. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2019

No need for Malone to sell Nuggets: Their time is now

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Give Michael Malone credit, the Denver Nuggets coach is as relentless a salesman as there is in basketball. Whether it’s moving speeches delivered to his own team or pleading with television audiences to stand up and take notice of the splendid compilation of talent the franchise has stockpiled in recent years, he refuses to let up. From building the legend of Jamal Murray or waxing poetic about the virtues of Nikola Jokic, the nimble giant prone to triple-doubles on the regular, Malone is prepared to use the bully pulpit to make sure no one overlooks the Nuggets. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] A seven-game series win over San Antonio in the first round produced some of Malone’s best stuff to date, including him trumpeting Jokic as not only a legitimate Kia MVP candidate (true, this season) but also a surefire future Hall of Famer (could be, the way he’s playing). So you had to know Malone was going to be on his Nuggets informercial grind after they refused to lose Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Portland, bouncing back after losing a grueling four-overtime thriller to the Trail Blazers here Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) with a gritty 116-112 triumph to tie this series at 2-2 headed back to Denver for Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) critical Game 5. “I’m so proud of our group,” Malone said, after his talented crew showed off the chops needed to regain the homecourt advantage they surrendered in their Game 2 loss at Pepsi Center. “And in the closing moments, I really was confident because in close games this year we were 13-3 [in games] decided by three points or less, best record in the NBA. We’re 12-1 in the second nights of back-to-backs, best record in the NBA. Our guys are tough; to come in here and win this game some 36 hours after losing a four-overtime game speaks to just how tough we are. So I wasn’t worried, we had our starting group out there. “Jamal, who I thought was phenomenal tonight, goes 11-for-11 from the foul line in a hostile environment and really kind of with the series hanging in the balance. You go down 1-3, and we all know how that story ends. I think the confidence of doing the same thing in the first round against San Antonio helped us, but our guys stepped up. We never frayed. We stayed together. And I can’t speak enough about the resiliency and toughness of our team.” And he shouldn’t. The Blazers had won 12 straight games at home dating back to the regular season and were 22-2 on their home floor since January 5. When the Nuggets saw their 10-point lead shrink to just a point with 3:02 to play as Portland closers Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (29) led the charge, Denver could have easily folded up under the emotional weight of Game 3 and their current predicament. But they proved to be as resilient and tough as Malone said they were. Jokic was brilliant again, collecting his fourth triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) in his first postseason, second only to the five Magic Johnson piled up during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. And Murray was even better, finishing with a game-high 34 points and draining six straight free throws in the frantic closing seconds to seal the win for a Nuggets team that didn’t allow fatigue, a raucous and sellout Moda Center crowd or the pressure to avoid that 3-1 hole rattle them. “It wasn’t the first time,” Murray said of his embrace of the pressure with the game on the line at the line. “I think free throws are my thing. My dad and I do a lot of training [on] free throws. Blindfolded, he’ll talk to me just like how the crowd is, put pressure on me. I take 1,000 free throws in practice to make or or two … and tonight, it ended up being six.” The number Malone focused on afterwards was 11, as in the number of playoff games Murray and Jokic have played in as they continue to establish themselves as postseason stars. “You think about how young we are and and what we are doing, going on the road and winning a tough game in a hostile environment,” Malone said, “and for Jamal to be the centerpiece of that has been phenomenal. If you’re a Denver Nuggets fan, how excited are you about this team now. More importantly, how excited are you for our future? We have a chance to be a really good team for many, many years and Jamal is going to be a big part of that.” The same goes for Jokic, obviously. He’s already an All-Star and is going to end up on the All-NBA first or second team as well as the top five of the voting for Kia MVP after the regular season he put together. That might explains why the entire Nuggets bench froze as they watched him limp to the sideline in the final moments after being kneed in the leg in the final seconds. “Your heart skips a beat,” Malone said. “Nikola is the face of our franchise, but he just got kneed, it was nothing serious and and we were able to hold on for the win.” For all of Malone’s bluster about his group, it’s not even necessary at this stage of the season. The Nuggets earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase on the strength of a talented and deep roster that might not resonate with casual NBA fans, but is celebrated by those in the know. Touting their accomplishments in real time makes sense for a coach trying to empower his team to believe in themselves in what could and perhaps should be a nice stretch of playoff runs in the future. But anyone paying attention can tell that the future could be now for these Nuggets. A trip to the conference finals one year after they failed to make the postseason field on the final night of the season in what amounted to a play-in game in Minneapolis last April, is a hell of a start. Malone knows it. His team knows it. And so do the Trail Blazers, who are well aware of the opportunity they squandered in a series where wavering confidence by the Nuggets might have been the only advantage they could exploit. “The good thing for us is that we won a game on their court,” Lillard said. “So it’s not like we lose both games there. We’re in a good space, 2-2, we know we’re capable of winning on their floor and that’t what we’ve got to get done. Obviously, it’s disappointing … we didn’t want to let an opportunity like this slip, but it happens. It’s playoff basketball and we’ve got to move forward.” So do the Nuggets, which is where Malone the master motivator comes into play. And just so we’re clear about something, his sell job is genuine. He knows of what he speaks in assessing a young team on the rise, having spent time coaching in Cleveland and Golden State during the formative stages with what would turn out to be teams that made it to The Finals (2007 in Cleveland). He was on Mark Jackson’s Warriors staff when they turned the corner from a lottery team to  playoff outfit (2012-13 season), helping nurture the core group of a team that has won three of the past four NBA titles and become a potential dynasty that no one saw coming at the time. So if Malone sees special things in his current team, it’s his responsibility to shout about it every now and then, both to the basketball public and especially internally. Youngsters like Jokic and Murray, Gary Harris and Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and Monte Morris and even veterans like Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee and Game 4 hero Will Barton, who knocked down huge shots to help seal the deal, need to hear the positive reinforcement from their coach. And that’s not even taking into account what absorbing these moments means for Michael Porter Jr., who is spending his rookie season recovering from back surgery, and is certainly going to be a part of that bright future Malone is so passionate about. If anything, this Nuggets team is ahead of schedule, two wins shy of a trip to the Western Conference finals with three games to play. Two of those are coming on their home floor, where Denver compiled the best record (34-7) in the league during the regular season. Maybe Malone is right to speak the Nuggets’ success into existence rather than wishing and hoping for it to come to fruition without a word otherwise. But he won’t have to go all car salesmen on the final day of month much longer. A couple more performances like the one the Nuggets put on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and this whole thing, the refurbished franchise with all the boxes checked on the roster -- now and for the foreseeable future -- sells itself. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Celtics need best version of Irving back

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are looking forward to getting guard Marcus Smart back, possibly as soon as Game 4 against Milwaukee Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) at TD Garden. They would be better served, however, getting guard Kyrie Irving back. The Irving who led Boston to its victory on the Bucks’ court in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals series was the latest, greatest iteration of the six-time All-Star point guard. Irving scored 26 points, passed for 11 assists and showed such maturity in orchestrating Boston’s attack that, even for a guy who has been on the national stage as long as he has, it seemed like some sort of breakthrough performance. That guy, though, exited this series some time in the 48 hours before Game 2. Kryie 3.0 became Kyrie uh-oh. Irving’s play looked rushed, detached and not at all mature. After hitting 12-of-21 shots in the series opener, he shot a combined 12-of-40 in Games 2 and 3 as the Celtics dropped both. They gave back the homecourt edge they had snatched with the opening victory and now need to win Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) just to force a best-of-three mini-series with two in Milwaukee. Irving had a plus/minus rating of minus-26 in the two Celtics defeats. And most disconcerting, the player who arguably is the NBA’s best at making difficult shots seemed bent on making his shots difficult. Too often he went solo, didn’t probe for something better, didn’t spot or even look for another option. Irving and Boston coach Brad Stevens had a conversation off to the side after the Celtics’ practice Sunday afternoon (Monday, PHL time) of moderate length. Afterward, each spoke with reporters. The point guard wouldn’t share what they discussed, while the coach deftly sidestepped the question. “We just wanted to spend 15 minutes talking about the objection of the Kentucky Derby,” Stevens said. “How that could possibly have happened. And so we just created a conversation as long as the objection, and that’s what we discussed in great detail.” Not likely. Stevens probably talked with Irving about some of the things the coach had said to reporters Saturday and Sunday (Sunday and Monday, PHL time): the need for the Celtics not to settle and not to succumb to whatever chaos Milwaukee’s defense was instigating by getting chaotic themselves. For two days, answering various questions, Stevens has steered the discussion to Boston moving the ball as the surest way to high-quality shots. “One of the things that we have to do as a team is just make those right reads off the first drive,” Stevens said, “and then go from there. We do have to do a better job of getting the ball to the second side of the floor, to the third side of the floor, and hopefully that includes as many paint attacks as possible.” The Bucks’ unveiled a switching style of defense in Game 2, something they hadn’t done much all season. Too often, Irving’s eyes lit up seeing center Robin Lopez or forward Nikola Mirotic isolated in front of him, and the tunnel vision that triggered didn’t even generate the best shots for Irving. Too seldom, the Celtics failed to get Milwaukee’s defense shifting left-to-right, and back again. “We have to make sure we’re patient in getting the best looks,” Stevens said Sunday (Monday, PHL time). “That patience doesn’t mean you ease into it. You have to work really hard and be patient against these guys. Because they do a great job of covering up the paint.” Celtics players made only 9-of-19 attempts inside five feet, a feeble rate by NBA standards. Lopez has been one of the league’s best defending the rim this season, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has the mobility to guard his man away from the hoop and still help inside. Admirably, Irving has been willing to shoulder responsibility, flatly stating after the Game 2 loss: “This is what I signed up for. This is what Boston traded for me for.” After each game, he has given detailed breakdowns of what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong and, most important, what he planned to do in the next game. It’s just that his most recent results haven’t matched his pledges. The Celtics have more talent than the Bucks, and more players capable of carrying them offensively through a game or just a pivotal stretch. But those scorers, from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, are dependent on Irving finding them and delivering the ball in a rhythm. Admittedly, Boston has to cinch things up defensively. Averaging 110 points ought to be enough, if you’re not getting blistered at a 39-percent rate from three-point range while sending your opponents to the free throw line an average of 30 times nightly. Irving blamed all those stoppages for stealing transition opportunities and generally messing with the Celtics’ offense. Even so, he must do what Stevens calls “controlling the controllables” and be his best self. He has gotten the better of his individual matchup with Milwaukee point guard Eric Bledsoe, but that’s not enough. And yes, this is what he signed up for. The great unknowns of this offseason, as in Irving’s future whereabouts, could swing wildly on what happens in the coming days. And what he makes happen. “I’ve got to be me. That’s the easy part,” Irving said Sunday (Monday, PHL time). “The same mindset that I’ve always had. Being aggressive. Being patient. Being able to be aware of the time of the game and where I need to make my impact. Being able to be in the right defensive positions and being able to communicate with my teammates as well. “That’s the easy part though. That’s the fun part, if you go out there and just allow the flow of the game to dictate your instincts.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Federer returns with a win, joins Murray in 2nd round

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer shanked a few shots and was unsettled by how nervous he felt after six months on the sidelines, despite the familiar surroundings at the Australian Open. No other man on tour knows the way around a Grand Slam tournament better than Federer, who is playing in his 69th major and has won a record 17. He served 19 aces and had only one double-fault in a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win Monday over fellow 35-year-old Jurgen Melzer, but dropped serve three times and experienced frustrating moments. 'I was feeling nervous once the match actually started,' said Federer, who hadn't played at tour level since Wimbledon after taking time off to let his injured left knee heal. 'In the warmup ... I felt fine. Then I hit four frames in a row. It was like, 'Whew, it's not as easy as I thought it was going to be.' 'I struggled for a while to find that groove, that rhythm.' Federer had surgery on the knee after a semifinal exit at the last Australian Open and missed the French Open, ending his streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. He returned for Wimbledon, reached the semifinals, then didn't play again in 2016. In November, he fell out of the top 10 for the first time in 734 weeks. The 17th-seeded Federer wasn't the only highly-ranked player to find the going tough Monday. Stan Wawrinka, the U.S. Open champion, was pushed to five sets. So was No. 5-seeded Kei Nishikori. Angelique Kerber, defending champion and ranked No. 1 at a major for the first time, had some nervous moments in her 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win over Lesia Tsurenko. Kerber won her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne last year, beating Serena Williams in the final after saving a match point in the first round. After wasting a match point before her serve was broken as Tsurenko rallied to win the second set, Kerber said her mind raced back 12 months. 'When I lost the second set, and I had match point, I was thinking about my match last year in the first round,' she said. 'First rounds are always tough.' In his first Grand Slam match with the elevated status of having a knighthood and the No. 1 ranking, Andy Murray berated himself when he made mistakes and frequently yelled during a 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Illya Marchenko. In other words, nothing much has changed. The five-time finalist comfortably navigated what he hoped was the first step to a drought-breaking Australian Open title. Murray has lost four of the last six finals in Melbourne to six-time champion Novak Djokovic. Gaining the top ranking and receiving the civic honors doesn't change anything for Murray, who said he faces 'the same pressure, same expectations. I've never won here — I'm going to try to change that this year.' Wawrinka, who made his Grand Slam breakthrough in Australia in 2014, narrowly scraped past 35th-ranked Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. In the ninth game of the fifth set, Wawrinka smashed a soft half-volley from Klizan straight back into the Slovakian's body, clipping the frame and just missing his midsection. He stepped over the net and ensured Klizan was OK, then held serve in that game and broke in the next game to finish it off. Nishikori beat Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2. Joining him in the second round are 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 19 John Isner, No. 23 Jack Sock, No. 27 Bernard Tomic, No. 29 Viktor Troicki and No. 31 Sam Querrey. Also, No. 14 Nick Kyrgios returned from his suspension for underperforming in Shanghai last year and raced through a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Gastao Elias. No. 16 Lucas Pouille was the highest-ranked of the three men's seeded players to lose. Five of the women's seeded players went out, including No. 4 Simona Halep, who lost 6-3, 6-1 to Shelby Rogers in the first match on Rod Laver Arena, and No. 15 Roberta Vinci, who lost to CoCo Vandeweghe. Seven-time major winner Venus Williams beat Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (5), 7-5, and 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard continued her recent resurgence by routing Louisa Chirico 6-0, 6-4. Joining them in the next round will be French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig, No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 10 Carla Suarez, No. 11 Elina Svitolina and No. 20 Zhang Shuai. Sixteen-year-old Destanee Aiava became the first player born in this millennium to play in the main draw of a major, but the milestone match ended in a 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to Mona Barthel. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017